Anton Omelchenko - Groom
(1883 - 1932) - Biographical notes

Groom Terra Nova 1910-13

Anton Omelchenko
1883 - 1932

Born in Bat'ki, near Poltava in the Ukraine into a peasant farming family, he became groom to a local estate becoming a jockey. It was as a jockey in Vladivostok in 1909 that he was recruited by Meares to help select the Manchurian ponies he had been sent by Scott to buy. Along with fellow Russian Girev he accompanied the ponies and dogs via New Zealand to Antarctica. Omelchenko was assistant to Oates who was in charge of the ponies, he became a popular and hard working member of the expedition working with the ponies on several sledging journeys.

His work was done when the Polar Party departed and so he returned home on the Terra Nova at the end of the middle summer of the expedition in 1912.

In WW1 he fought with the army in Russia and later with the Red Army. He returned to Bat'ki where he helped to establish a collective farm, he was killed by lightning in 1932 at the age of 49.

Anton Omelchenko

Anton Omelchenko
Cooking mash in the stable, May 23rd 1911

Anton Omelchenko

Anton Omelchenko
Interior of the stable, March 28th 1911

Anton Omelchenko video 21 secs

References to Anton Omelchenko by Cherry-Garrard in "The Worst Journey in the World"

  • No account of the ponies would be complete without mention of our Russian pony boy, Anton. He was small in height, but he was exceedingly strong and had a chest measurement of 40 inches.

  • I believe both Anton and Dimitri, the Russian dog driver, were brought originally to look after the ponies and dogs on their way from Siberia to New Zealand. But they proved such good fellows and so useful that we were very glad to take them on the strength of the landing party. I fear that Anton, at any rate, did not realize what he was in for. When we arrived at Cape Crozier in the ship on our voyage south, and he saw the two great peaks of Ross Island in front and the Barrier Cliff disappearing in an unbroken wall below the eastern horizon, he imagined that he reached the South Pole, and was suitably elated. When the darkness of the winter closed down upon us, this apparently unnatural order of things so preyed upon his superstitious mind that he became seriously alarmed. Where the sea-ice joined the land in front of the hut was of course a working crack, caused by the rise and fall of the tide. Sometimes the sea-water found its way up, and Anton was convinced that the weird phosphorescent lights which danced up out of the sea were devils. In propitiation we found that he had sacrificed to them his most cherished luxury, his scanty allowance of cigarettes, which he had literally cast upon the waters in the darkness. It was natural that his thoughts should turn to the comforts of his Siberian home, and the one-legged wife whom he was going to marry there, and when it became clear that a another year would be spent in the South his mind was troubled. And so he went to Oates and asked him, "If I go away at the end of this year, will Captain Scott disinherit me?" In order to try and express his idea, for he knew little English, he had some days before been asking "what we called it when a father died and left his son nothing." Poor Anton!

  • He danced the Lancers with Anton, and Anton, whose dancing puts that of the Russian Ballet into the shade, continually apologized for not being able to do it well enough.

References to Anton Omelchenko by Scott in "Scott's Last Expedition"

  • Hooper was landed to-day, much to his joy. He got to work at once, and will be a splendid help, freeing the scientific people of all dirty work. Anton and Demetri are both most anxious to help on all occasions; they are excellent boys.

  • Anton with Lashly's help had completed the furnishing of the stables. Neat stalls occupied the whole length of the 'lean to,' the sides so boarded that sprawling legs could not be entangled beneath and the front well covered with tin sheet to defeat the 'cribbers.'

  • By this time the effect of stimulating liquid refreshment on men so long accustomed to a simple life became apparent. Our biologist had retired to bed, the silent Soldier bubbled with humour and insisted on dancing with Anton.

  • It is very pleasant to note the excellent relations which our young Russians have established with other folk; they both work very hard, Anton having most to do. Demetri is the more intelligent and begins to talk English fairly well. Both are on the best terms with their mess-mates, and it was amusing last night to see little Anton jamming a felt hat over P.O. Evans' head in high good humour.

Note: Anton Omelchenko along with fellow Russian Dmitriy Girev are referred to almost universally by their first names unlike all of the other men on the expedition, this is found in the writings of Cherry-Garrard, Scott and the diaries of others.

Landmarks named after Anton Omelchenko

Feature Name: Omelchenko Bluff
Type: cliff
Latitude: 77°38'08''S
Longitude: 166°45'33''E
Description: A rock bluff rising above 600m, between Turks Head Ridge and Tech Crags. The bluff is approximately one kilometer northwest of Grazyna Bluff, Cape Evans, Ross Island. The bluff is in close proximity to Cape Evans and is in keeping with other features in this area which are also named after members of the British National Antarctic Expedition (1910-13). Named by New Zealand in association with the 2012 Scott Centenary year.

Picture reference: Anton Omelchenko cooking mash in the stable during the British Antarctic Expedition of 1911-1913. Ref: PA1-f-067-037-3. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23219531

Other Crew of the Terra Nova Expedition

Abbot, George Percy - Petty Officer, R.N.  - 1, 2, N
Atkinson, Edward L. - R.N. - surgeon, parasitologist - 1, 2, D, P, S
Balson, Albert  - Leading seaman, R.N.- 1, 2
Bowers, Henry Robertson - Lieutenant - 1, 2, D, C, Po
Browning, Frank Vernon - Petty Officer  - 1, 2, N
Campbell, Victor - Lieutenant, R.N.  - 1, 2, N
Cheetham, Alfred B. - Boatswain (Bosun), R.N.R.
Cherry-Garrard, Apsley - Assistant zoologist - 1, 2, D, C, S
Crean, Tom - petty officer, R.N. - 1, 2, D, P, S
, Frank - Geologist - 1, 2, iW, iiW
Dickason, Harry - Able Seaman  - 1, 2, N
Evans, Edgar - petty officer, R.N. - 1, iW, Po
, Edward R.G.R. - Lieutenant, R.N. "Teddy Evans" - second in command, and Captain of the Terra Nova - 1, D, P
Girev (Geroff), Dmitriy - Dog driver - 1, 2, D, P, S

Gran, Tryggve - ski expert - 1, 2, D, iiW, S
Lashly, William - chief stoker, R.N. - 1, 2, P, S
Levick, G. Murray - Surgeon, R.N.  - 1, 2, N
Lillie, Dennis Gascoigne - Biologist on the ship
McLeod, Thomas F. - Able seaman - 1, 2
, Cecil H. - in charge of dogs - 1, D, P
, Lawrence - Capt. 6th Iniskilling Dragoons - 1, D, Po
, Herbert G. - Camera artist - 1
Priestley, Raymond E. - Geologist  - 1, 2, N
, Anton - Groom - 1
Scott, Robert Falcon - Commander, R.N. - Expedition leader - 1, D, Po
Simpson, George - Meteorologist - 1
Taylor, T. Griffith - Geologist - 1, iW, iiW
Wilson, Edward Adrian - chief of scientific staff and biologist - 1, D, C, Po
Wright, Charles Seymour - Physicist - 1, 2, iW, P, S

1 - first winter
2 - second winter
iW - first western party
iiW - second western party
N - northern party

D - depot laying for south pole journey
P - south pole party
C - winter journey to Cape Crozier
S - search party for south Pole party
- reached South Pole

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